Shine, Poet!

The first week of November holds BIG memories in my life. It feels big enough to call for my first blog post since the birth of my 2nd daughter in May. (Woohoo! Thank you Lord for baby Lucia Jeanne!) And it feels big enough for the first post since January. JANUARY. (Don’t hold typos against me. I’ve been trying to write this post for over 24 hours and keep getting interrupted.)


10 years ago TODAY, my parents and I pulled into Phoenix after two days of packing and driving. I was 24 years-old and moving out west ALL BY MYSELF. I don’t think I intended to stay here for this long. I was chasing adventure and following a call that was somewhere deep in my soul. Just two months prior, I began a job hunt to see if I could possibly use my degree (Theatre Ministry) and unique passion somewhere in the world. I had a specific skill set and I found a job in Surprise, Arizona that felt like it was created in my journal: Children’s Creative Writing Specialist.

Chasing Adventure, November 2006

I interviewed, prayed, and then accepted this new journey writing and producing children’s video curriculum for large group teaching. I spent my weekends teaching God’s Word to hundreds of elementary school students and my weeks writing scripts and filming on location. It was creative and full and fun. I tried not to think too much about my quiet Friday nights. I was adopted by an amazing Arizona family, treasured by friends, and cheered on by countless members of my church. Like most young people in their 20’s, I wondered if I was doing the right thing, if I had made the right move, and how long I should stay in this desert. I considered moving back home to Texas several times. At one point I boxed up all of my possessions and planned to spend a year in Uganda. I attempted dating on Match.com. I auditioned for local theater and joined a young adult small group. I started writing journal entries in hopes of one day turning them into a book. I shopped a lot at Trader Joes. I saw a lot of movies. I hiked, ran, and took photography courses. I accepted jobs to speak and teach. And every so often, I swallowed back loneliness and asked, Is this where I am supposed to be?

In my first months of my transplant, a friend mailed me a canvas with the words of 1 Corinthians 7:17 from the Message inked in gold. I hung it where I could see it every day.

“And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there…”

That’s good, right? So good.


7 years ago this week, I pulled into a parking lot and convinced myself to GET OUT OF THE CAR. I had signed up for a month of eHarmony and November 2nd was my first date. We had been communicating for a month and now we would finally meet face to face. The day before I had shared with my mom the fact that he reminded me of my dad. I confessed that I really thought that this would be a significant relationship in my life. Our emails and phone calls had led me to believe that there was something different about the connection I was making with David.

Dating

November 2, 2009, I walked out of my car and met my husband for the first time.


The view from November 2016 seems less glamorous than years past. I don’t have vacations planned on the horizon. I don’t even have any speaking opportunities until January. I have a lot of sleepless nights, floors to clean, diapers to change, and games to play. Life seems a bit small at the moment. But my friend Katie recently encouraged me not be discouraged in the smallness or seeming monotony. The beauty of the Gospel is that it redeems every aspect of life. The gospel touches even the mundane and our eyes are opened to the goodness of God and the little tasks that hold our families together.

So right here, right now, I give thanks. I give thanks for the coffee, the dirty floors, and the opportunities to do the good, hard work of today. I am thankful for the ministry to come and the ministry that exists to my little people right now. I can’t beat myself up for not writing a blog post in 9 months because I have much to do right in front of me. It matters. It all matters.

Whether you find yourself at the beginning of an exciting chapter, the slow middle, or even a sad ending, know that this day is a gift. This present is such a gift. Don’t waste it. Shine now.

IF thou indeed derive thy light from Heaven, 
Then, to the measure of that heaven-born light, 
Shine, Poet! in thy place, and be content:– 
The stars pre-eminent in magnitude, 
And they that from the zenith dart their beams, 
(Visible though they be to half the earth, 
Though half a sphere be conscious of their brightness) 
Are yet of no diviner origin, 
No purer essence, than the one that burns, 
Like an untended watch-fire on the ridge 
Of some dark mountain; or than those which seem 
Humbly to hang, like twinkling winter lamps, 
Among the branches of the leafless trees. 
All are the undying offspring of one Sire: 
Then, to the measure of the light vouchsafed, 
Shine, Poet! in thy place, and be content.
– William Wordsworth

blue bonnet

 

All for now-

Ginger

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My Anniversary Gift for Year Five: Marriage Counseling

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This weekend my husband and I will celebrate our five year wedding anniversary. Just this past January, we began discussing about how we wanted to celebrate this milestone. We both value experiences and quality time over gifts, so we determined to take two trips sans kiddo. (We like to gift equal opportunities for babysitting to both sets of grandparents. It’s only fair.) But on top of two great experiences seeing different parts of the country, I also asked for a bonus gift. Marriage counseling.

When I shared my request at a recent speaking engagement, there were audible gasps in the room.

So I wanted to take a moment to explain why I believe one of the greatest gifts we could give our marriage is counseling. Unfortunately, counseling, especially marriage counseling, still carries a bit of a stigma for many people. Countless female friends and acquaintances have confessed to me that although they might like to visit a counselor, they didn’t think their husbands would consider counseling as an option. The reason? “There’s nothing that wrong with our marriage. I’m happy. Aren’t you happy? I don’t need to talk to a stranger to know I should love my wife.”

David and I committed to several sessions of marriage counseling because our marriage is good – really good – and we want it to continue that way. In the same way I see my doctor for yearly checkups or get the oil changed in my car, the goal is to do the work before any crisis arises.

If you told me that next year I would be expected to get in a boxing ring and go toe-to-toe with Laila Ali, I would be foolish to think my training could come in the middle of that match. You do the work outside of the ring so that you are skilled and equipped for the fight.

I asked for marriage counseling because I want to fight for our marriage, together.

The greatest threat to our marriage isn’t outside of our marriage. The greatest threat is in our marriage- it’s me and my sinful heart. It’s my husband and his flesh. I so appreciate the outside perspective provided by my counselor that helps us to see our blind spots both individually and as a team.

A personal trainer helps you to do the work that will shape your body and strengthen your muscles. A counselor helps us do the work to strengthen and shape our marriage.

Statistics scream that marriage is hard. My husband graciously accepted my request for counseling because we both want the same thing: a great marriage.

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On a recent road trip we talked through some of the greatest marriage lessons we’ve gleaned through reading (Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage and Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas in particular), learning and counseling over the past five years. Here’s what what training has taught us:

Prepare for the fight before you get in the ring!

Invest in your marriage by strengthening your team: pursue each other, schedule date nights, develop your communication skills, seek out mentors, enlist a counselor for support. I have yet to regret time devoted to knowing my spouse in a greater way.

(Romantic) Love isn’t enough. 

David doesn’t complete me. He can’t complete me. To place my total purpose and satisfaction upon his shoulders would be crushing. David cannot read my mind. He will disappoint me. So giving love only when I feel the love, that’s going to lead to some lonely stretches of time. Instead this one goes back to our vows. We committed before God to be a picture of the gospel to the world. That’s our end game. That’s our firm foundation – we are both sinners in desperate need of a Savior, not each other. Even when I don’t feel loved in the way I might imagine for a particular moment, I am still called to lean in and love. Marriage is a daily choice.

“In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must BE tender, understanding, forgiving and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.” Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

Place your vows where you can see them.

Our first Christmas together I had our vows printed and framed with a shot from our wedding. The picture hangs outside our bedroom door and serves as a daily reminder that we go out into the world committed to each other before God. We are in this journey to help each other become our future glory-selves, and that takes daily vow renewal in our hearts.

“[Spiritual friendship] is eagerly helping one another know, serve, love, and resemble God in deeper and deeper ways.” Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

Practice Patience.

Almost every little frustrating spat is a result of differing expectations. Take a deep breath, then proceed with the reminder that this other person is FOR you and not out to get you.

Communicate. (Kindly.)

Sometimes it’s not exactly what you say, but how you are conveying your message. We have two big rules in our marriage when it comes to our words: No silent treatment and no cussing at each other, EVER.

Release the need to justify yourself.

I’m sorry goes such a long way to mend hurting hearts.

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

hawaii

 

There are obviously countless more things to share, but this is what is fresh on our minds in a year with so many friends experiencing deep grief and challenges in marriage relationships. Marriage is hard, but it can also be such a blessing. That’s my hope and desire for this next year, that this journey together (no matter the minefields that await) would be so, so good because we are determined to walk this together.

“The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us.” Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

Happy 5th Anniversary, David.

I love you so. xoxo

-G

*Wedding photos by Jane Zarzynski Photography